jp2On Colossians 1:3, 12-20.

The great Christological hymn that opens the Letter to the Colossians…exalts the glorious figure of Christ, the heart of the liturgy and centre of all ecclesial life.

The horizon of the hymn, however, soon widens to embrace creation and redemption, involving every created being and the whole of history.

[…] After an introduction in which thanks are given to the Father for our redemption (cf. vv. 12-14), our hymn is divided into two strophes that the Liturgy of Vespers proposes anew each week.

The first celebrates Christ as the “firstborn of all creation”, that is, begotten before all other beings. Hence, this strophe affirms his eternity which transcends space and time (cf. vv. 15-18a).

He is the “image”, the visible “icon” of God who remains invisible in his mystery.

It was through this experience of Moses, in his ardent desire to look upon God’s personal reality, that he heard in response: “You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33: 30; cf. Jn 14: 8-9).

Instead, the face of the Father, Creator of the universe, becomes accessible in Christ, the architect of created reality: “All things were created through him… and in him all things hold together” (Col 1: 16-17).

Thus, while on the one hand Christ is superior to created realities, on the other hand he is involved in their creation. For this he can be seen by us as an “image of the invisible God”, brought close to us through the act of creation.

In the second strophe (cf. vv. 18b-20), the praise in Christ’s honour reaches to a further horizon: of salvation, redemption, the rebirth of humanity created by him but which, through sin, had been plunged into death.

Now, the “fullness” of grace and of the Holy Spirit that the Father instilled in the Son enabled him, through dying and being raised, to communicate new life to us (cf. vv. 19-20). He is therefore celebrated as “the firstborn from the dead” (1: 18b).

With his divine “fullness” but also by shedding his blood on the Cross, Christ “reconciles” and “makes peace” with all things, in heaven and on earth.

Thus, he brings them back to their original condition, recreating the initial harmony that God desired in accordance with his plan of love and life. Creation and redemption are thus connected, like the stages of one and the same saving event.

[…] St John Damascene…writes…: “The death of Christ saved and renewed man; and it brought the angels back to their original joy because of the people saved, and combined earthly realities with those above…. Indeed, he made peace and took away enmity. Therefore, the angels said: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth”.

John Paul II (1920-2005): Commentary on the Psalms and Canticles of Vespers (General Audience, 24 November 2004).

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